Concerns grow over transportation to get COVID-19 vaccine

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DENVER — As hospitals and local clinics begin making calls to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments, transportation is becoming an issue for Coloradans.

Nick Roper with Kaiser Permanente said they’re scheduling appointments, but vaccines are limited. He said if one location runs out of the vaccine, appointments will be re-routed to another location.

An older couple reached out to Denver7. They didn’t want to be identified. The husband said he and his wife had an appointment scheduled at the Kaiser Permanente Lone Tree location, but on the day of the appointment, it was moved to Aurora.

He said the location was much further. He added that he can’t see well and his wife can only drive short distances, so they missed their opportunity to get the shot.

He said a hospital representative told him the missed appointment moved them to the end of the waiting list.

Denver Indian Health and Family Services held a vaccine clinic last Friday for Native Americans. Director of Primary Care Karen Hoffman-Welch said transportation was one of the many issues they encountered while scheduling appointments.

Their goal was to vaccinate 150 Native Americans at the Denver Indian Center and 120 received the shot.

More than 562,000 Coloradans are 70 and older, and they’re in line to get their vaccine.

Denver7 reached out to several government entities and hospitals to seek out transportation options to get the vaccine.

A spokesperson with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said they’re aware transportation is an issue to get the vaccine.

They released the following statement:

“The state COVID-19 Response vaccine task force and CDPHE health equity staff are exploring a variety of transportation options, mobile delivery options for people who are homebound, as solutions may look different from community to community. The team is exploring both public and private partnerships and has initiated conversations with partners such as RTD and Lyft for additional options. In addition, local emergency management teams have plans to address transportation needs statewide. These plans are at different stages of being implemented.”

Coloradan’s who are 55-years-old and up may be able to arrange transportation through their PACE provider. For those enrolled in Health First Colorado, the state’s Medicaid program, they can use the Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) for free to and from a medical appointment.

In Denver, the city and county do not offer transportation to get the shot. However, RTD has two options Access-A-Ride and FlexRide both vary in price and in requirements. Appointments can be scheduled over the phone or online for either.

Access-A-Ride is for people with disabilities. FlexRide provides extended bus service in specific Denver Metro areas. It’s available for the general public on a first-come, first-served basis.

A spokesperson with UCHealth said they’re currently working with another company to help provide rides to appointments.

Uber and Lyft are also providing free or discounted rides to millions of people to and from their vaccine appointment. But it’s not a free for all; partner organizations are working directly with people in need to schedule rides.

Denver7 reached out to Centura Health and we are waiting to hear back.